To spank or not to spank? That is indeed the question these days when it comes to raising kids. Spanking has been quite the hot topic of conversation in our house lately. We are in full on toddler mode now, which means we are learning all about discipline…what works and what doesn’t, what’s appropriate for his age, what he even understands at this age, and just in general, what sort of discipline we are comfortable with. Matt and I have pretty different views and it’s created some heated debates interesting conversations. Then with the whole Adrian Peterson spanking incident, I feel like this topic has really taken the spotlight. (I mean, have you seen the pictures of that little boy’s legs?? Bless his heart. That’s just completely unnecessary.) We are also talking about it a lot in our parenting small group. It’s just one of those things you have to figure out when you become a parent; sooner than you think too.
I’m really torn on this. On one hand, I know past generations spanked a lot, especially if you grew up in the South. I don’t really remember getting spanked, except for a few times, but my brother definitely did, and I don’t think either of us are traumatized by it. Matt says he was spanked, and he certainly has no psychological trauma. In fact, his mom always jokes about how it didn’t faze him one bit and was pretty much pointless anyways. He’d just laugh it off and go on with his bad self. When we talk to our other friends with young children, most of them remember being spanked as kids too. It just wasn’t a big deal and certainly wasn’t such a hot topic of conversation as it is today. I think I had a healthy fear of my parents, but it was more a fear that they would take something away from me (toys, TV, phone, car, time with friends, etc). If I asked Logan he may say that he feared a spanking, (I distinctly remember my mom using a fly swatter and it got to where all she had to do was open the pantry door where the fly swatter was housed and Logan would immediately straighten up…hilarious), but probably not as much as he feared being grounded from friends and activities. Bottom line, we were punished based on how our parents deemed fit and what best got our attention and caused us to behave, whether it was that we would have privileges taken away or be spanked, and I don’t think either form of punishment had any adverse effect on us – although I’m sure if you asked us at the time we would have told you that we were being severely damaged;)
With that being said, I really struggle with spanking Asher Wade. I have a hard time believing that hitting him does anything more than show him that hitting is a perfectly acceptable way to react when something doesn’t go our way. Every day we have to remind him, “no hitting…nice hands only,” and to then turn around and swat at him ourselves seems a little confusing. How do you explain to a toddler that mommy and daddy can spank you when you are naughty, but you can’t “spank” or hit someone when you think they are naughty (which is toddler talk for when someone makes them mad, or simply when AW gets frustrated and assumes it’s because someone made him mad). Then on the other hand, you also can’t explain to a toddler how they have misbehaved and expect them to have any clue what you are saying. A swat on the booty lets them know they messed up, no explanation needed. I’m sure as he gets older we will be able to pull him aside and address bad behavior and explain to him what the consequences will be, but that’s just not where we are right now. The few times I have swatted his bottom he really just got his feelings hurt and cried because of that, not because the swat actually hurt. I still feel guilty though and feel that I’m really just letting my emotions and frustration take over, which is certainly not what I want to do.
Like I mentioned above, Matt and I totally differ in the area of discipline. Matt sees no issue with spanking (as in, palm to the booty…not talking about corporal punishment here), and thinks it’s necessary as a sort of quick reminder to get in line and behave. Usually this comes about when AW is doing something he knows he’s not supposed to be doing, Matt scolds him and tells him “no,” AW goes right back to doing it again, which results in Matt giving him a swat on the backside. AW almost always cries; again, not because it physically hurt him, but because it hurt his feelings. If you’ve read some of my past posts, you may recall that AW is very sensitive and emotional (like his mama), and his feelings are easily hurt. The “crunchy mom” side of me thinks that we should instead be using more positive reinforcement and discipline (prevention, distraction, communication, etc.), but do I really think that a swat to his (very diaper padded) butt is going to cause him to be some sociopathic teenager that hates his parents? Not really. In fact, I can’t help but think that some of these studies that have shown that spanking increases the risk of ongoing behavioral, psychological and emotional problems may not take in to account the other variables in the child’s life, such as home life, friends, school and personality in general. Still though, these sort of studies do make me think and worry about repercussions, particularly how it may impact our relationship with AW. What matters most to me is that AW trusts and respects us (and loves us of course) and while I think a healthy fear of your parents is necessary, I think respect and trust are even more important and necessary.
Then there’s the comparison between boys and girls. I hear all the time parents say how they don’t have any problem spanking a little boy when he misbehaves, but they don’t think it’s acceptable to spank a girl. While I sort of see where they are coming from, I have a hard time with this theory. I don’t mean to get all gender equality on y’all (because you know I am hardly a feminist), but this just seems a little out-dated to me. If you believe spanking is the best form of discipline, then treat boys and girls the same. Why is it ok to spank a boy when he misbehaves, but not ok to spank a girl when she also misbehaves? They both disobeyed; neither is more guilty. If your excuse is because you don’t want to hurt the little girl because they are so delicate, then do you not think you are hurting the little boy too? Maybe just don’t spank so hard to begin with. I’m pretty sure that if you spank a little girl too hard it would probably also be too hard for a little boy. By only spanking boys because you believe they are tougher, all you’re doing is showing your daughter that females are the weaker sex…not tough enough to withstand the spanking their brother got. Aren’t we always trying to teach our little girls that they can be just as tough, just as strong, just as capable of handling adversity? This is no different. Spanking equality, y’all, that’s what I am talking about here. Don’t discriminate;)
Thoughts here? If you have kids, do you spank? What other sort of discipline techniques do you utilize? Tips for dealing with a hard-headed toddler?;)